By mid-April this year, pirates had already seized 21 vessels.
So far, most incidents have been settled without loss of life by ships’ insurers. But as the pirates’ ambitions grow, ransom demands escalate and fears emerge over links between piracy and terrorism, shipowners and governments are regarding the situation with mounting unease.Spotting a huge market opportunity, a number of companies are developing technology that could help shipowners counter the threat of piracy. Many of these ideas come from the world of defence, where technologies originally developed for naval applications are directly relevant to counter-piracy operations.Leading the field is BAE Systems, which is working on a suite of imaging and processing technologies that could provide an advanced warning of a pirate attack and give vessels a chance to take evasive action.BAE is carrying out a feasibility study with shipowners, government agencies and navies, and hopes to conduct sea trials next year.Bryan Hore, who is leading the project, said the system is being developed with a particular mode of operation in mind. ‘[Pirates] tend to attack from dawn or dusk, at a slight angle, from behind onboard skiffs. Armed with AK47s, a rifle and an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade], they aim a few warning shots at the citadel, then use ropes and ladders with hooks on to climb on board,’ he said. It is a pretty one-sided affair, added Hore. Once under attack, a crew is rapidly scared into submission.Identifying a threat in the crowded waters of the
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